Of average height, slight of stature, and graying around the temples, he didn’t look like the kind of guy who was about to make an earth-shaking confession.
We were participating in a group discussion at a preaching conference when he raised his hand. “After the worship service at my church,” he began tentatively, “we have what we call ‘fellowship hour.’ It’s really just coffee and doughnuts, but it’s when folks, having sent their kids to Sunday school, talk about what’s going on in their lives.” A few heads nodded.
“Usually I get pulled into a conversation or two in between making sure everything is running smoothly. But over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been just listening, moving quietly from conversation to conversation, not talking, just listening. And do you know what I realized?” he asked, giving us a moment to wonder as he took a sip of his coffee. “I realized that the things they talk about with each other are the things that matter to them, the things that make up their daily lives. The soccer match, the PTA meeting, the conflict with a friend, or promotion at work. They talk about events, those things that are happening in their lives and are worth sharing with each other.”
He paused again, but this time not to sip coffee; it was more like he still couldn’t quite make sense of the insight he was about to share. “The thing is,” he said, looking slightly forlorn, “they never talk about the sermon they just heard, the sermon I spent hours working on, or the worship service either. It’s like the whole experience we’ve just shared never happened.” The silence that followed was palpable, as almost everyone in the room first recognized that probably much the same could be said of each of our congregations and then wondered what that meant. Or, really, wondered whether it meant what we feared it meant.
I would wager that each of us who regularly preaches has had moments just like this.
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